India launches relief, rescue operations in quake-ravaged Nepal
Pulling out all the stops to help Nepal after a massive earthquake, India on Saturday rushed four military planes carrying 300 rescue workers, five sniffer dogs, 50 tonnes of relief material and a mobile hospital.
“Nepal’s pain is our pain,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has invested substantially in ties with Kathmandu. “I have spoken to their prime minister and president and assured them that this country of 125 crore is with you.”
Two MI-17 helicopters were also pressed into service but had to return due to bad weather. “There is heavy damage in Kathmandu but we haven’t been able to asses it yet. Tomorrow, there will be more aircraft movement carrying water, medical supplies, tents and blankets,” said foreign secretary S Jaishankar.
The railway ministry will be sending one lakh Rail Neer water bottles.
The disaster relief teams were deployed after a high-level meeting chaired by the PM, who said India must do all it can to help Nepal and also urged government officials to put in place a plan to bring back stranded Indians.
The Indian Air Force will be evacuating 250 Indians, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said. Yoga guru Ramdev is among those stuck in Nepal but he has preferred to stay back.
Two Indians have been reported dead in Nepal so far. The daughter of an employee at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu died while another Indian was reported dead at Bir Hospital in the city.
“A house in our embassy complex collapsed. Unfortunately, the daughter of our employee Madan has died. His wife's condition is serious,” Swaraj tweeted. There were no immediate details of the second victim.
“There is severe damage in Kathmandu and beyond. The Indian embassy also has some damage, said Jaishankar.
Within four hours of the calamity, the air force launched a C-130J Super Hercules plane with 39 National Disaster Response Force personnel to Kathmandu from Hindon air base in Ghaziabad. After dropping off the team, the aircraft will carry out an aerial survey of road communication to Pokhara, near the quake epicentre, before returning home.
Soon after, the IAF despatched an IL-76 military transport plane from Bathinda and two C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift planes from Hindon. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said India had mobilised necessary resources while army chief General Dalbir Singh was in touch with his Nepalese counterpart to provide assistance.
The external affairs ministry put out helpline numbers — +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104, +91 11 2301 7905 — as did the Indian embassy — 977 9851107021, 9851135141.